How old is your accounting website? Remember all that hard work and angst, liaising with the web company, getting photos taken for the ‘Meet the team’ page? Remember how exciting it was to tell everyone your website was live? How long ago was it?
Perhaps the more important question is, when did you last update it? If your answer is, “I’m not sure,” or, “Not since Mary left four years ago,” then you are not alone (well, you might be concerning Mary).
For too many busy accountants and IFAs, it is a case of, “Been there, done that.” That is a rather short-sighted attitude to one of the primary routes to their market.
An out of date website will impact you on five key fronts:
- Its ability to be found in searches
- The perception visitors will have of your brand
- The technology it uses may be out of date
- The security of your business and your clients
- Its usability in today’s fast-paced world
Let’s look at these in more detail to understand how your old website impacts these vital elements and what you need to do to fix them.
1. Its ability to be found in searches
A little bit of technical detail to start with; to date, Google has introduced five major algorithm changes - the bizarrely named Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, and Fred.
An algorithm change is where Google, as the primary provider of search, alters the way its search operates, and some of these changes have major impacts on websites that fall outside of the new search criteria.
For example, Google was ahead of the curve when it understood the move of search from desktop to mobile. The introduction in 2015 of what came to be known as ‘Mobilegeddon,’ whereby it introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking indicator, certainly hit any mobile-unfriendly sites hard.
Along with these significant changes, several other big, and thousands of other smaller changes have been introduced. Google is working to provide its users with the most relevant and user-friendly information when they search, and it continually refines how it achieves that.
It does this by changing what its search ’bots’ look for, how it can assess content is relevant and up-to-date, and how to avoid showing information that could be ‘falsely’ found, for example, by stuffing the content with key search words but no real content.
Now think of your website, sitting there, dusty, out of date, clunky on a mobile phone with text that is too small and pictures that don’t reduce. How much do you think Google will love your website?
Quite simply, it won’t and it therefore won’t show your website to people when they are searching for ‘accountant in Bognor Regis’ or ‘financial advisor in Chelsea’ even if that is what you are and your website says so.
What it will show is your competitors down the road whose websites are up-to-date and include regular blogs, news, information, and work fantastically on mobile phones.
Solution: Give your website a total overhaul. Work with someone who can check it against commonly accepted standards, update it from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, and then keep adding good, relevant content.
2. The perception visitors will have of your brand
It takes users 0.05 seconds to decide whether they like a website - a fraction of time. Try looking critically at your site - how does it make you feel about your company. Be objective - you know it well.
Perhaps compare it against your main competitors, remember, the ones I mentioned in the point above. Which one stands out? And if you do manage to keep someone on your website for longer than 0.05 seconds, 38% will stop engaging with a website if they find its content or layout unattractive.
The stats go on; 75% of consumers make a judgment on the credibility of the company purely on the way their website looks.
If your site is listing an event you were attending three years ago, has blogs from the same period, is text-heavy, and has an uninspiring design, prospective customers will make a judgment. That could be rightly or wrongly about your credibility and capability of providing the service, they are looking for.
Solution: Sometimes, it is easier to start again than try to refresh a website, mainly if it has been in existence for longer than two to three years. Help the web design company by identifying sites that you like.
Alternatively, ask them to help you by identifying websites in your sector that receive high traffic and get them to design along those lines.
3. The technology it uses may be out of date
Web technology, like just about every other technology, is in a permanent state of change and development. For example, Windows 7 came in around ten years ago, and we are all supposed to be using Windows 10.
The critical point to note is, providers of technology eventually stop supporting their older versions. What this can mean is that your website might not even be shown on newer operating systems. Or it might be available but not function correctly or look strange.
From January 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or support for Windows 7 operating systems. While websites using it will still work, they will be at higher risk of viruses and malware - see point 4 below.
And it isn’t just the technology that changes. The way we use the internet has changed too, and that drives further change. Think back to the early days of the internet. The web pages were kept small to fit the monitors we were using.
The screen size back then was just 800 pixels x 600 pixels. Now we work on huge screens or multiple screens. What is your website designed for?
Solution: There are many free services available that will enable you to check the operating system and other systems you are running on your website.
If you do have Windows 7, it is possible to update to Windows 10 but best to get advice before you do, certainly for older devices. Please speak to a good web development company and ask them to assess your website thoroughly.
4. The security of your business and your clients
As mentioned above, when technology gets too old, you can lose the protection of the security updates they provide, exposing your site to viruses and malware. You could be open to hacking or even client data being stolen.
The introduction of GDPR means you should have already made changes to your website by telling visitors that you are gathering their data, even on a ‘contact us’ form.
Coupled with that, you need to be storing their data securely - there are significant fines for data breaches if they are not handled correctly. In 2011, you had to give visitors the option to agree to have cookies placed on their computers.
So, if you are only using Google Analytics, then you need that notification for visitors.
As an accountant, the security of your client’s data is paramount - you need to ensure that your website isn’t the weak link in your armoury.
If in doubt, speak to a web development company who will be able to help and advise you on all of these matters.
5. Its usability in today’s fast-paced world
The tipping point has reached between mobile and desktop use for searching and viewing the web. So, if your website isn’t responsive on a mobile, or doesn’t work just as perfectly, if not better, on a mobile, then you are losing yet more prospective clients.
Almost 8 in 10 people would stop using a website if its functionality is poor, and a shocking 61%
will not return to a site on mobile if they had trouble accessing it with 40% going on to visit a competitor’s website.
How quickly does your site load - slow loading is penalised by search engines, which will give it a poor ranking, and by prospective clients who will click away to a competitor’s site if it doesn’t open fast enough.
Solution: Check your site on your mobile phone - does it work the way you think it should? And then check its loading speed - there are many free sites available on the web, and many of them identify what you need to do.
Invariably large file sizes are the culprit, and it is usually possible to shrink and image size so that it will load faster. Or again, talk to a web developer for your accounting website
An out of date website is the enemy of business growth because it can impact you in so many ways, from making people question your credibility to signposting your competitor. There is no time like the present to ask a professional to give it a full review and make their recommendations on what you need to do to get it fixed.